Here is why I think those predicting that Putin will come under so much pressure over accidental downing of the plane that he will throw rebels under bus might be wrong:
I. EU reaction so far indicates no interest in going to Level 3 (sectoral sanctions that would truly encompass entire sectors of Russian econonmy)
- Merkel studiously declined to answer repeated questions about whether she would support tougher sanctions against Putin beyond the more limited measures EU has already agreed upon (NYT, 07.19.14).
- EU officials: Europeans would require a high burden of proof about Russian complicity before taking measures that would strike at the inner circle of Mr. Putin , particularly those involved in the Russian energy supplies on which many Euriopean economies depend. ” (NYT, 07.19.14)
II. History shows that nations (including Ukraine,) have not suffered any serious sanctions after accidentally shooting down passanger airliners as long as they paid compensation (some didn’t even apologize). See here for evidence 7 times militaries have shot down civilian planes, Vox. 07.17.14.
Now I am not saying there won't be repercussions for Russia and separatists if evidence is produced thateither has been involved in accidental shooting. But those who have already publicly concluded that Putin will now have no choice, but to throw rebels under the bus and agree to whatever 'exit-ramp' Poroshenko, EU and US offer him for resolution of the conflict, may have jumped the gun. I don't have a crystal ball, but here is what I think. Yes, Putin will eventually force the separatists to settle, but it won't be until Russia's wishes vis-a-vis Ukraine, including codification of neutrality and decentralization (as formulated by MFA and others back in March) are accommodated.
UPDATE: If Putin does cut separatists loose without attaining some sort of a deal with Kiev – that grants at least some of Russia's and separatists' wishes, then I'd be interested to see how can his propaganda machine can come up with an explanation for abandoning the separates that would look plausible and justifiable in the eyes of his core conservative constituency that have been so inspired by taking of Crimea, Putin's allusions to Novorossiaya, and vows to protect ethnic Russians everywhere in former USSR.